Immunohistochemical, electron microscopic and in situ hybridization evidence for the involvement of lymphatics in the spread of HIV-1

K. Tenner-Racz, P. Racz, H. Schmidt, M. Dietrich, P. Kern, A. Louie, S. Gartner, M. Popovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To investigate the role of the lymphatic vessels and the sinus system of the lymph node in the spread of HIV-1, we evaluated 15 lymph nodes from patients with persistent generalized lymphadenopathy (PGL). Fifteen lymph nodes taken from patients with follicular hyperplasia not related to HIV-1 infection served as controls. Immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization techniques revealed infected cells within the sinuses and the efferent lymphatics of the PGL lymph nodes. In contrast, infected cells could not be detected within the walls of the high endothelial venules nor in the areas immediately adjacent. The parenchymal side of the marginal sinus was lined by a discontinuous endothelium. Macrophages and lymphocytes were located within the gaps of this endothelium. More importantly, when the enlarged follicle extended as far as the wall of the marginal sinus, the processes of follicular dendritic cells could be seen extending through the gaps into the lumen of the sinus. This suggests that these cells could transport antigens (including HIV-1) from the sinuses directly to the germinal centers. In addition, HIV-1 particles within cytoplasmic vacuoles were seen in infected macrophages located in the submarginal zone. Positive cells were also found in the extrafollicular lymphoid parenchyma, especially in the area between the marginal sinus and the follicles. The observed distribution of the virus-positive cells within the PGL lymph nodes strongly implicates the lymphatic vessels in the spread of HIV-1 infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-309
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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